After helping set a Guinness record in China for the world’s largest display of cheese varieties, a Wisconsin trade delegation helped convince that country’s northernmost province to boost its imports of state agricultural products, a delegation official said.
Wisconsin exporters of frozen semen and embryos, farm equipment and feed all have opportunities to take advantage of Heilongjiang province’s plan to invest $200 million on livestock expansion over the next three years, said Sandy Chalmers, assistant deputy secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
“Wisconsin and Heilongjiang Province have been sister states for more than 30 years, and what unites us is our common interest in dairy,” said Chalmers, who led the delegation.
Province officials announced the plan this week after the state trade delegation of businesses and professionals attended the 2016 China International Dairy Expo and Summit April 22-24 in the province’s capital, Harbin.
The expo’s record-seeking organizers enlisted the help of workers from Wisconsin-based Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery and UW-River Falls to help Wisconsin businesses and DATCP to identify and gather more than 500 varieties of cheeses from Wisconsin, the Netherlands and China showcased at the record-breaking display, Chalmers said.
The state also showcased 417 cheese varieties and products from 24 of its cheese producers/distributors along with other state produced products in a “Wisconsin Pavilion” coordinated by DATCP for the expo, Chalmers said.
“Because this event was covered by both national and provincial media, it was a unique opportunity to introduce Chinese consumers to Wisconsin cheese,” Chalmers said. “China is becoming a nation of consumers, and they are interested in purchasing high-quality Western foods, including dairy products.”
The delegation that included representatives from six state businesses also promoted other Wisconsin agribusinesses and encouraged trade and educational exchanges at the expo, which was attended by business representatives from dozens of countries from around the world, Chalmers said.
DATCP economic development consultant Jennifer Lu, who was part of the state delegation, said relationship-building is a big part of doing business in China. “Meeting face to face not only creates the opportunity to build awareness of Wisconsin products, services and expertise, it also sets Wisconsin apart,” she said.
The delegation also met with researchers from the Fuli Food Science Institute of Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Agricultural Academy of Sciences in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to explore potential educational exchanges and to gain a better understanding of China’s food safety issues, especially with regard to dairy and infant formula.
China imported $222 million worth of Wisconsin ag products in 2015, ranking it behind only Canada and Mexico. Products in demand were hides and skins, whey, lactose, lumber, ginseng and bovine semen.
“When a country does something like what China just did, that’s a big thing,” said Bob Tramburg, the president and chief executive officer of VitaPlus, a Madison-based livestock feed company. “It should improve their ability to feed their population, and that’s a good thing.”